Our plan today was to camp before Weymouth which would mean a super short day of ten miles or so. We didn’t really want to go further as that would commit us to going through the town then all the way down the road into Portland, then fuck knows how far into the Isle of Portland to find somewhere to camp.
Our alarm went off at 6.30am and we took our sweet time getting our shit together. We even had probably the best bacon buttie ever. Lulworth Stores get their bacon from a butcher so it’s so thick and tasty, and the bread was a gorgeous, crusty loaf that I managed to cut into acceptable slices without losing a finger so I’m basically a kitchen god now. A chap we’d got chatting to on our first night had given us some eggs from his chickens at home, and I swear you can taste the difference between them and eggs from the shop. I poached it then chopped it onto my buttie and oh my gosh I could get far too used to this.
Eventually, reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from the YHA and all the interesting people we’d met and started to drag ourselves up a hill back to where we left the trail. Seriously, calf muscles? You had a whole day off! This wasn’t the anticipated burn that makes you feel alive, this was actual pain. I had it the other day when I was crawling up the ranges too and there was nothing I could do to resolve it until I was on the flat.
The trail takes you way over the top of Lulworth Cove which is roughly 94% better than having to walk on the shingle beach, and it used to take you right down to the cove but that path has been closed due to erosion. We followed the acorns to the Visitors’ Centre and then we had that delightful climb up and over to Durdle Door. I remember when I considered hills like this brutal. I remember it because it was, like, two weeks ago. It’s a piece of piss now.
We bagged a cheeky little trigpoint, walked through the lovely but overpriced campsite to the Spar for supplies, then put the famous Door itself into our eyeholes because it’s the law. It really is a very sexy corrugated chunk of earth crust, but people often overlook Man O’ War Bay which is just as photogenic although it looks like a bum. Or a pair of boobs.
There were definitely a couple more hideous hills that annihilated my poor calf muscles. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. When I Google it, it tells me it’s vascular and my arteries are fucked but I’m the picture of health. I ate a vegetable yesterday and everything.
A chap who must have been easily in his 60’s cheerfully marched past us as I half walked, half clawed my up a particularly steep section. “This is the last difficult hill,” he told us, “though there’s one more big one.” Comforting. The next hill was indeed big but at least it didn’t feel the need to have those rough steps worn into it. A nice, steep slope would do for this bad boy.
It mercifully flattened out after that. I mean, don’t get your spirit level out or anything, the last few days have adjusted my definition of flat. We found a cute little wooden church which I became immediately enamoured with. I must sound like a right god botherer the way I bang on about churches but they’re often such lovely buildings and I’m a sucker for a good building.
We popped to the beach at Ringstead and sat down for some lunch and to dry the tent out. Fuck me, it was another windy day today. The sun was out but the wind was epic. We carabinered the tent to our bags, used our hiking poles to pin the corners down and hoped it held, or we actually would have to go to Portland today to fetch the bloody thing.
Despite our late start and inordinate quantity of faffing, we’d got ourselves to a point where we were way too close to the stretch we’d earmarked for camping. It was 2.30pm and we were only three miles away. I mean, the sun was out so we could easily chill somewhere but that wind cut through your layers. The other option was to press on through to Portland but without knowledge of the area I could only estimate a further 14 miles before we arrived somewhere we could try and camp. Bivvy if necessary.
So the first person to mention the Smuggler’s Inn was the ticket guy at the ferry in Southampton. “Avoid it!” he told us, “It’ll suck you in and you’ll never get going again!” The second person was a chap climbing up a hill we were shuffling down earlier today, he told us it was a nice pit stop. The third was an Instagram mate who said we sounded like we needed a pint and the Smuggler’s Inn was a good spot. Was the universe trying to tell us something? We pondered it as we walked. If we managed to get to Portland today we could easily clear the island tomorrow but we’d not be able to faff around sipping pints in the sun.
We rounded a corner. Oh. Oh dear. What a lovely, lovely beer garden, all sunny and out of the wind… we weren’t tired, we didn’t deserve a pint… but we did some trail maths and you know what? We probably couldn’t make it to Portland now anyway, not with enough daylight left to find a spot to camp. We did need to kill some time before covering the last couple of miles to where we thought we could pitch… fuck it. We’re on holiday. We got the beers in.
We only had a couple of pints before we figured we should probably crack on before we drunkenly tried to book one of their £170 rooms. A couple of miles up the trail we found a patch big enough for a tent tucked away behind some gorse with a cracking view over to Portland. This would do. It wasn’t exactly the joyous flatness we’d had at the YHA but hey. It’d do for tonight and the eyehole fodder was certainly better than the back of a concrete hostel.
West Lulworth, Dorset to Osmington, Dorset, England
Stayed at: Wild camp somewhere between Osmington Mills and Overcombe.
Useful shit to know…
- There are toilets at Lulworth Cove, at Durdle Door car park, and at Osmington Mills once you’re through the Smuggler’s Inn.
- There’s a water tap at Durdle Door Holiday Park, I can’t see anyone challenging you if you use it.
- There’s a Spar at Durdle Door Holiday Park which everyone can use.
- There will be a café, water tap and toilets at Ringstead but they’re seasonal and we’re closed when we arrived.
- Smuggler’s Inn is absolutely lovely and the trail goes right through the beer garden. It will absolutely suck you in.